Rig Report

Johnny Marr @ the 930 Club

Tone Report's Phillip Dodge checks out Johnny Marr's live set up during a show in which he finally gets to hear Marr play "How Soon Is Now?"...

  • By Phillip Dodge @tonereport
  • January 14, 2014

I caught Johnny Marr at the 9:30 Club in DC last night. It was amazing. Never in my life did I expect to see Marr playing "How Soon is Now?" six feet from my face. I thought that ship had sailed.

I grew up listening to the Smiths and he is one of my favorite guitarists. I didn't start listening to the Smiths until shortly after they broke up. I saw him play with Modest Mouse, but I never expected to see him in a small club. 

Along with playing the majority of his new album (The Messenger), Marr played some Smiths songs, and "I Fought the Law" (either a Crickets or Clash cover depending on your point of view). He also played "Getting Away With It" and "Forbidden City" from his Electronic days. While I'm loving the new album, the highlights for me were the Smiths songs.

I went into the show knowing that he was playing Smiths songs and I was cautiously optimistic. Sure, I'd get to see him playing the songs. But would it be weird to not have Morrissey singing them? I shouldn't have had reservations. Johnny nailed the vocal parts. And to see how he and the second guitarist divided the parts was amazing. I always new that the guitar parts on the album seemed impossible to play. And now I realize why. It's usually two or more guitars playing intertwined parts that sound like one guitar.

The highlights for me were "How Soon is Now?" (not listed on the setlist), "London," and "Upstarts."

He played a white Fender Jag for the majority of the night. Switching to a red one for "The Messenger." They may have been the signature model, but neither had his signature on the headstock. For pedals, he had a Diamond Comp and then a lowly Boss GT-100 multi-effect. The cleans and chorus tones sounded outstanding and the gritty parts were pretty good. The only time the tone was harsh was when he went really high gain for London. For amps, he had a Deluxe Reverb and a Super Reverb. Only the Deluxe was mic'd.

And the craziest thing of all-- he was using a TC Helicon vocal processor. And it sounded great. He was definitely using it for harmonies (and it sounded great on Neil Tenants part from "Getting Away With It"). And he may have been using it for verbs and echoes.

My other big take away from the show is just how much he uses a capo. Look at this setlist - all but five songs use capo:

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  1. JF

    Great review. I had the chance to see Mr. Marr in NYC in November of 2013 at the Webster Theater. It was a transcendental show. The guy knows how to rock.

  2. station2station

    His capo is one of the coolest parts of his rig.  He uses a G7th brand - it’s so good and high quality I bought one.  G7th.com.  Capo’s are usually $10-20.  This one is nearly $50.

  3. DJGyllburt

    I saw him a few weeks ago in Toronto at the Danforth Music Hall, and I think it was the show of the year.  Lots of Smiths songs, lots of material from both his solo albums, and I think he even threw in a Replacements cover into the set.  But the one part of the show that took the cake was when Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene came out to sing “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”, then for the last song of the night, which he dedicated to “everyone in the building and nobody f***in’ else!” was There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, and he nailed the vocal, and after the last chorus, backed off the mic for the audience to sing their hearts out, with Johnny throwing in some tasty fills between phrases.
    Gear-wise, he was playing his Signature Jags (I think you can get one at Guitar Centre for around $1800…I’m told it’s a very nice guitar after a setup) and he had the GT100, Diamond Comp, Latching AB switch, and the TC Heilon vocal processor and a Radial mic splitter to send dry and wet vocals to FOH.  Amps on stage I believe were 4 Twin Reverbs, with mics on the top amp of each stack panned in stereo (makes sense for the auto-pan treatment on How Soon Is Now).
    Amazing show, and I’ll definitely be back when he comes through with the next solo album, which he’s apparently working on writing for while on the road.
    Also, he had to cancel the west coast portion of his Playland tour in North America because someone in his family is seriously ill.  Thoughts and prayers go out to Johnny and his family as I know what it’s like to cancel a bunch of gigs to be with your family in their time of need, but gigs come and go, family always trumps even the greatest gig of your career.  Happy holidays everyone.

  4. Vince

    The Crickets?

    Okay, yeah, Sonny Curtis wrote the song. But nobody ever listened to anything the Crickets recorded after Buddy’s death - except for Bobby Fuller, apparently.

    Depending on your point of view, “I Fought the Law” is either a Clash cover, or a BOBBY FULLER FOUR cover. From the Clash’s POV it was a Bobby Fuller Four cover. Their version was the ‘66 hit, the post-Buddy Crickets version (1960, I think?) never sniffed the charts. Hell, I’ve never heard it (though I have seen Mr. Curtis’ name on record labels as the songwriter).

  5. Tony

    “lowly BOSS GT-100”?

    Bias much?  Here’s a guy making WAAAAY more money than you playing his music, who could play thru pretty much anything he wants, and he CHOOSES to use the GT-100… why?  Because it sounds good.  And since it’s made by BOSS, it will hold up to the rigors of the road, unlike many small-batch boo-teek pedals that cannot be easily replaced for the show taking place in 3 hours…

    If it sounds good it IS good.  Period.

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